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April 6, 2010

BP Unfiltered

Five Opening Day Storylines

by John Perrotto

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Now that we've had some time to digest the events of Monday's first full day of the baseball season, here are five thoughts on Opening Day.

1. David Wright's opposite-field home run, a two-run shot in the first inning that got the Mets started on their way to a 7-1 victory over the Marlins, was important in two ways.

One, it signaled that Wright is on track to regain his power stroke after his home run total fell from 33 in 2008 to 10 in 2009. Two, it might go a long way in the Mets' overcoming their phobia of Citi Field in their second year in their home ballpark, as they amazingly hit only one oppo homer in 81 games there last season.

2. Roy Halladay had zero adjustment problems in making the transition from the American League to the National League as he held the Nationals to one run and six hits in seven innings of the Phillies' 11-1 victory, walking two and striking out nine.

Granted, the right-hander was facing a team that has lost at least 100 games each of the past two seasons. However, Halladay was everything the Phillies hoped for when they decided to trade three prospects to the Blue Jays for him this winter and then made him their unquestioned ace by shipping left-hander Cliff Lee to the Mariners for three prospects.

PECOTA projects Halladay to go 16-8 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 218 innings. Lee is tabbed for a 12-9 record, 3.44 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 183 innings. However, Lee is on the disabled list with an abdominal strain after having his start to spring training delayed following foot surgery. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has been criticized heavily for trading Lee and giving free-agent infielder Placido Polanco a three-year, $18 million contract during the offseason. So, how did Polanco do on Opening Day? He was 3-for-5 with a grand slam. Maybe Amaro just has the Midas touch.

3. Jason Heyward really could be too good to be true, as the Braves rookie right fielder hit a three-run home run in his first career plate appearance and went 2-for-5 with four RBIs to lead a 16-5 rout of the Cubs. The 20-year-old is projected to hit .274/.344/.462 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) with 19 home runs by PECOTA. If Opening Day is any indication, he'll do much better than that.

4. Joel Zumaya turned back time as he threw 10 pitches in relief for the Tigers, eight of which were strikes and one of which was clocked at 103 mph as he worked one scoreless inning in a 6-4 victory over the Royals. Zumaya burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2006, and had a 1.94 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 83 1/3 innings while helping the Tigers win the AL pennant. Since then, he has been plagued by shoulder problems, and has pitched just 88 innings in the major leagues with a 4.30 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. A healthy Zumaya obviously would go a long way in solidifying the Tigers' bullpen.

5. Albert Pujols is still pretty good, as the reigning two-time NL MVP went 4-for-5 with two homers to spark the Cardinals to an 11-6 victory over the Reds. Yes, one game does not a season make, but you get the sense that PECOTA's projection of .322/.429/.572 with 35 home runs is on the light side for a guy who is shaping up as one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. As of now, he's on pace to hit .800 with 324 home runs. Can he keep it up??? Probably not, but at this point you should underestimate Prince Albert at your own risk.

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

6 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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6. Will the payroll for the Pittsburgh Pirates be even lower then the Opening Day $34.9 million after the trade deadline? Which one of the starters gets dealt, where will Dotel be sent, how soon will Bobby Crosby be dispatched to a contender? Just how low can Bob Nutting go?

Apr 06, 2010 13:40 PM
rating: 0

thanks John. Do you ever see Zumaya being used as a closer? Or, as he was used in the minors, a starter?

Apr 06, 2010 13:53 PM
rating: 0
Kyle E.

Wasn't it also Heyward's first big league swing, with the homer being hit of a 2-0 pitch?

Apr 06, 2010 16:43 PM
rating: 0

Gluckschmerz don't forget about the Padres, starting off under 40 million with Heath Bell and Adrian Gonzalez (not to mention Chris Young) about to be traded at a moment's notice. The race to the bottom in the NL will be fun to watch :(

Apr 06, 2010 19:39 PM
rating: 0
Brian Cartwright

Garrett Jones, trying to show that 2009 was not a fluke, going deep in his first two plate appearances

Apr 06, 2010 23:37 PM
rating: 1

Shaun Marcum going 6.3 no-hit innings was a nice little story for fans in the North.

Apr 07, 2010 06:32 AM
rating: 0
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